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State still putting off tough budget decisions

I took a look at the plan Gov. Paterson has released to close the state's budget deficit and a few things strike me.

For starters, I don't see enough structural changes that would result in recurring savings. Yes, Paterson does propose an across the board spending cut of $1.8 billion, but the plan also includes a lot of one-shots.

For example, about one-fifth of this year's gap as projected by Paterson would be closed by taking revenues away from entities ranging from the Environmental Protection Fund to the Battery Park City Authority and moving up the anticipated payment to the state from whatever company wins the bid to operate the Aqueduct Video Lottery Terminal franchise.

Those maneuvers add up to $626 million. They are not cuts. They do not address the long-term structural deficit. They represent one part quick fix, one part slight of hand.

Also, there's not a word about layoffs, although the $1.8 billion in spending cuts might prompt some. No one wants to see people losing their jobs, especially in these economic times, but structural change demands it. The party is over.

I know the schools are going to howl over a cut of nearly $700 million in aid, but keep in mind that districts have been enjoying hand-over-fist increases for years.

As the governor's office noted in its press release:

... school aid spending of $21.2 billion would still represent a $6.8 billion or 47 percent increase compared to 2003-04. Moreover, based on census data, New York spends more total per pupil than any other state and 63 percent above the national average.

Like layoffs, cuts in school aid are necessary if the state is ever to get its fiscal house in order.

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State government
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